So the “Random Selection Draw” of the first phase of ticket allocation for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil has been officially made public by FIFA. Sounds pretty basic, right? Yesterday FIFA announced that it had set a record for the number of tickets that it had allocated to applicants. They allocated 889,305 tickets from a total of 6.2 million requests, which trounces South Africa’s 2010 World Cup numbers of 381,559 from 1.8 million requests, and beats out Germany’s 652,521 tickets from 8 million requests for the 2006 World Cup.
Of the 889,305 tickets, FIFA is reporting that 625,276 (71.5%) of the tickets went to Brazilian residents with only 264,029 (28.5%) being distributed among applicants from other countries. From those countries, The United States and England top the list of countries receiving the highest ticket allocations with 66,646 and 22,257 respectively, but some of the other countries on the list may be a little surprising.
Looking at the countries that received the highest number of tickets, The U.S., England, France and Germany make sense from an economic standpoint. Canada and Australia do too, but also from a geographic standpoint as well, while Colombia and Argentina have very fierce rivalries with Brazil. The two seeming outliers are Japan and Switzerland. Initially Japan stands out as odd, but after considering that they were the first country to qualify for the World Cup in early June, while other countries are even now still navigating the qualification process, their numbers begin to make a little more sense.
Switzerland is probably the most interesting. Not that I doubt the Swiss fervor for the game, and to be fair they have qualified top of their group, what stands out is that the FIFA headquarters are in Zurich. With previous controversies involving FIFA officials selling tickets illegally the fundamental question arises as to whether you can apply for world cup tickets if you are a FIFA employee.
Even more so the numbers represent tickets, not people. Applicants for the random drawing were able to apply for up to four tickets per game, up to 6 games, so while naturally each ticket/seat is occupied by one person, it is impossible to tell the breadth of the actual distribution of tickets.
Two further things should be noted about this information. The first is that this is only half of the first “Sales Phase” as FIFA calls it. There are in fact 3 sales phases with a total of 5 separate window periods for tickets. This is but the first of 2 windows in this sales phase. The second part is a first come first serve fire sale. This leads to the second of the notes, this first phase has a total of 1 million tickets available. Despite the numbers not quite adding up FIFA announced that this first come first serve window is likely to have around 228,959 tickets available.
The application process for the random selection phase began on the 20th of August and ended on the 10th of October and it didn’t matter when you applied because you had an equal probability of selection regardless of when the application was put in. Obviously the first come first serve is self explanatory so it is safe to assume that servers will be quite bogged down on November 11th when that window opens. It is also doubtful that any tickets will be available anytime near the end of the window on November 18th since 2.5 million of the requests for the random selection were put in during the first 24 hours that the window opened.
The second sales phase has the same random selection draw window followed by a first come first serve window where the random selection application period runs from December 8th to January 30th and the first come first serve period lasts a little bit longer than its previous matching window running from February 26th until April 1st. This is followed by one final first come first serve phase for any remaining tickets called the “Last Minute Phase” that runs fro April 15th to July 13th.
The significance of the first two sales phases is that this first one that has recently ended was done with applicants in some cases not even knowing if the country they support had qualified for the World Cup yet. More importantly as there may be some countries that were highly probable of making it, despite this, fans of those teams still didn’t know what group their country would be drawn into.
If an applicants country happens to be drawn into the group of death and they’ve bought team specific tickets then depending on what team they support, you could be watching games involving either of the two teams that knocked theirs out of the tournament following the group stages. That being said, the second sales phase does occur after the group stage draw, and intentionally so.
Looking forward to that phase without knowing the draw is getting a little ahead though.
Going back to the numbers at the beginning, it may seem very good that a high majority of the tickets went to Brazilian residents even more so with most going at a discounted rate. While it is an important facet, another important aspect to take into account is where these tickets are.
While applicants can apply for team specific tickets, and venue specific tickets the further option available is the category of tickets. The category designates what part of each stadium the applicants ticket will end up in. There are 4 categories beyond the complimentary tickets section and the sky boxes. Brazilians exclusively get category 4 and while they are the most affordable, they also appear to represent the smallest sections in each stadium.
This is not to say that they wont good sections, or fun to be around, any fan will tell you that the fan’s sections behind the goals are some of the best sections to be in during a game (depending on your temperament). The point however, is that FIFA does appear to be tooting their horn about allocating a large portion of these tickets to Brazilian residents who have good reason to share a strong distaste for world soccer’s governing body.
Grantland’s Spike Friedman frames the situation well in his The Triangle piece:
…the massive public expenditure on stadia for the event, which has yet to be matched by transportation and infrastructure investment, means the actual cost to the average Brazilian for hosting this event is massively high.
While it was not FIFA’s direct responsibility to ensure that the nation’s priorities were in line when charting a path for World Cup–related investments, the anger that the country feels toward soccer’s governing body is understandable. Even a much-maligned South African effort resulted in new train lines and airports as a legacy from their World Cup. The average Brazilian will likely neither see the impact of the influx of money into the country nor have access to the matches.
Overall, it is certainly encouraging numbers for FIFA but it is more than likely that this is the most transparent the organization will ever appear with Caixa Econômica Federal and the Brazilian Ministry of Sports supervising the random allocation draw.
Demand for tickets is high, much higher than there was in South Africa in 2010 and edging out Germany in 2006 but that was almost to be expected. It will be interesting to see the geographic distribution of tickets in the second phase following the Group Stage draw, after we find out whether we will have a Zlatan-less or Ronaldo-less tournament, then there will be a better picture of who will be attending the World Cup.